Last night (March 14th 2012) the Oakland chapter of 100 Black Men and Safe Passages, an organization from ‘Tha Town’ that is in the forefront of dealing with domestic violence and sexual assault, hooked up with members of the Hip Hop community to hold a town hall meeting inside City Hall. The topic was Misogyny, Teen Violence and the influence Rap Music has on our behavior..
Lemme just say this from jump street.. what took place last night was riveting, honest, powerful and inspiring..It wasn’t a gripe session or a finger-pointing rap bashing occasion. It wasn’t an event where two generations (Hip Hop and Civil Rights) found themselves at odds blaming one another…
What you had at the Oakland Town Hall was a community who clearly understands there are important issues at hand impacting young minds and we have to go in another direction..
One of the highlights of the town hall was the discussion with Bay Area rap pioneer Too Short. But folks were clear from the beginning these issues are systemic and go way beyond one rapper, one magazine or one incident.. However, the recent controversy around Too Short giving explicit ‘fatherly advise‘ to middle school age boys in an online video hosted by rap publication XXL had put him on the hot seat..
Short said he takes full responsibility for his actions and wanted to be part of the conversation to help rectify and repair the damage and disappointment he caused.. Many felt he was candid and forthcoming with his remarks and the evening ended with him noting this is just a starting point and him appealing to other artists in the room to change direction, expand their horizons and re-define the legacy of Oakland rap..
Last night’s Town hall saw in addition to Too Short, other key stake holders including elected officials, community activists and local artists come together with a spirit of love, a desire to heal and eager to find ways to bring about brighter tomorrows..Some of the most powerful statements came from the young survivors of rape and sexual assault who shared their perspectives and solutions..
During the Town hall, Alameda County supervisor Keith Carson along with a couple of members of 100 Black men set the tone, by discussing the harrowing statistics around sexual assault. Carson noted that every couple of minutes a woman is sexually assaulted. He said over 10 million kids had witnessed domestic violence and one out of 5 teenage girls has been assaulted..He also pointed out that since 2005 over 2 million boys/men have been sexually assaulted.
Carson surmised that the figures are probably much higher. he was just noting what had been reported. He also pointed out that rather than we point fingers and play the blame game, we come at this from the spirit of sparking dialogue with a goal of getting solutions to turn the tide..
Dereca Blackmon who is part of the We Are 44% Coalition gave a great presentation on the commodification of songs celebrating sexual abuse and degenerate behavior. She noted that many have come to see confuse videos with real life. She broke down how that impacts us all.
Afterwards Blackmon sat down with Too Short and had a 20 minute revealing discussion about the music industry, the role artists should take in turning things around and his own personal journey to understanding some of the issues being addressed. He talked about the XXL Controversy and eye-opening the conversation he had with writer Dream Hampton
The evening concluded with a panel discussion where we heard some power statements and solutions from young activists and artists, some of who are survivors of rape, sexual assault and violence.
The mood at the end of the evening was upbeat with many feeling very inspired. Sadly and in typical fashion some of that good energy was dampened by what was shown on the evening news. In particular KTVU and KPIX did what many described as hit pieces.. They left before the panel discussion that featured the young folks.. They didnt show any of the commentary from the survivors of rape and sexual assault who sat with Too Short and questioned him.. They totally ignored what everyone plainly stated the gathering was about.. It was not reflective of what took place last night. In fact the reporter from KTVU seemed hostile that folks were coming together to uplift and not take down.. I encourage all to watch the video of the Oakland Townhall to get a better understanding of what took place..
As your watching the video, we want folks to keep in mind what took place last night was by no means was a new or unique in terms of the topics discussed. Every couple of years something pops off and captures the attention of the media or activists and hence such discussions unfold.. A few years ago we saw this topic broached after radio host Don Imus went on air called women on a college basketball team, ‘Nappy Headed Hos‘. His remarks set off a firestorm with people calling for Imus to be fired. He in turn countered and claimed that he made the unsavory remarks because he was influenced by rap music.. That in turn lead to many of us having reflective self-examination type discussions.
A couple of years prior to Imus’s remarks, we had a situation involving rap star Nelly, who was shown on a video to his popular song ‘Tip Drill‘ swiping a credit card thru the cheeks of bikini clad dancer.. Again it set of a storm of controversy leading up to Spelman College rejecting him when he was scheduled to come on campus and do a Bone Marrow benefit and bring awareness to the plight of his cancer stricken sister..
We can go on and on citing examples where the activities of artists ranging from 2 Live Crew to NWA to 2Pac to Snoop Dogg to Jay-Z and 50 Cent, have led to town hall style meetings, vigorous radio and TV debates to Senate and Congressional Hearings…
As was mentioned earlier, last night’s Town Hall which was held in the chambers of the Oakland City Council came in the wake of incident last month involving Bay Area rap pioneer Too Short and XXL Magazine.. The magazine produced an online video that depicted Too Short dispensing ‘fatherly advise’ to young 12 & 13-year-old boys on how to ‘turn out young girls’ and ‘take it to the hole’..
This outraged a number of Hip Hop generation Black and Latina activists, writers and scholars like Joan Morgan, Rosa Clemente and Dream Hampton to name a few, who felt that not only did this cross some major fault lines but was the nail in the coffin for what they saw as increasing attacks on young girls, women of color and women in general.
These aforementioned sisters linked up with other women and a growing number of male allies like Dr Marc Anthony Neal, Lumumba Akinwole-Bandele and filmmaker Byron Hurt to name a few who also who shared in the outrage to form the We Are the 44% Coalition.
We Are the 44% Coalition felt it was important that awareness be raised around the fact that 44% of sexual assault and rape survivors are under the age of 18 and that as a group they push to create a climate where what Too Short & XXL did is never repeated by other artists and publications.
They demanded that Harris Publication which owns XXL take steps to fire the editor(Vanessa Satten) and donate space in the magazine to have issues of sexual assault to be adequately addressed.
They ‘blew the whistle’ on Too Short and demanded he educate himself and start working with organizations in our community that deal with sexual assault.
Soon after forming weekly online twitter chats started taking place with the hash tag #ItsBiggerThan2Short. It is there that many started come together to discuss these issues, demands and craft solutions.
During last nights town hall there was a call to action for all of us to not allow the daily assaults on women both verbal and physical become normalized. Many recognize there is currently an all out war on women both within our community and the society at large that is systemic and far-reaching..
We see attacks coming from law makers in Congress and the Senate where they hold all male panels on women’s reproductive health with them refusing to seat at least one woman to share insights and testimony.
We see legislatures in states like Arizona propose laws that would allow employers to fire a woman for taking birth control pills..
We see popular radio hosts and political leaders like Rush Limbaugh resort to publicly demeaning women by calling them ‘sluts’ and ‘prostitutes’ when he has a political disagreement.
We see many in our mainstream press as well as esteemed lawmakers at the highest echelons of power ignore and try to sweep under the carpet our military’s dirty secret.. Last year alone there were over 19 thousand sexual assaults.. A woman serving in our military is more likely to be sexually assaulted by our own male soldiers then be killed or wounded by enemy fire..
Now, 19 thousand is a staggering number, but one would not know that’s going down by looking at our mainstream news coverage.. an across the board news blackout about 20 thousand rapes that have taken place on military bases rapes of women in our military the large number of rapes in our own military.
This was part of the backdrop that led last night’s Oakland’s Town hall meeting …The other part to this was the fact that Oakland and the Bay Area has some ongoing issues that has led to many people talking. First this is a major hub for human trafficking..Recently Allen Temple Baptist Church had a couple of gatherings where over thousand people came out..According to Reverend Harry Williams who heads up the Street Disciple Ministry at AT which deals the rise in human trafficking, in this depressed economy and a competitive drug game that has been sewn up by international cartels making it hard to get supplies, many have turned to pimping. He noted that from his work many who are returning from prison after doing long stretches have stepped into this arena with young girls being a primary target..
This has been echoed by Diamond a local artist and promoter who is also peer leader at United Roots and the Sister Circle which counsels young women. In a recent round table discussion she noted that she has seen increased aggression toward women over the past couple of years. Like Williams she noted that many are returning home after being incarcerated 15-20 years under California’s harsh 3 strikes law, which has all but eliminated rehabilitation and education. For those who don’t know California’s 3 Strikes law was put into place back in 1994 after the kidnapping and murder of then 12-year-old Polly Klass.. Over 40 thousand men were put behind bars under it.. Diamond agreed with William’s assessment that many are jumping into the pimp game to try and make money….
Both Williams and Diamond noted that this all doubly compounded with the rise of ‘Sneaker Pimps‘. These are young boys 11, 12 and 13 out here pimping young girls of similar age. Some are working for older men, but many others have come up without parents and live on the streets with this being the only hustle they know.
This wasn’t the main topic of discussion during last night’s town hall, but its important to understand this as part of the local landscape and the pervasiveness of what they call Rape Culture.. Anyone interested in the discussion we had on this topic with front line workers like Rev Harry Williams and Diamond can watch the video we did at the link below
Overall shout out to everyone who came out and represented.. Special Shout out to Chuck Johnson who reached out to all of us and set the ground work for an important discussion..